Four sitting circuit judges win easily Only opponent earned most of income as CPA

March 06, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Four sitting judges in Anne Arundel County swept to victory last night, beating back a challenger who was widely criticized during the campaign for his lack of courtroom experience.

Circuit Court Judges Eugene M. Lerner, Martin A. Wolff, Clayton Greene Jr. and Pamela North soundly defeated Daniel C. Conkling, a Pasadena resident who has a license to practice law but who has earned most of his income as a certified public accountant.

With all precincts reporting, each of the sitting judges was thousands of votes ahead of Mr. Conkling. The challenger got 11 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and 14 percent in the Republican primary.

The leading vote-getter in both primaries, Judge North, had about twice as many votes as Mr. Conkling. She received 25 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and 24 percent in the Republican primary.

The other percentages:

Judge Greene, 22 percent in Democratic, 21 in Republican; Judge Lerner, 21 percent and 20 percent, respectively; and Judge Wolff, 20 percent in each primary.

Mr. Conkling, 55, did little campaigning, but spent at least $10,000 of his own money in an effort that targeted Judge Lerner, a former Annapolis city attorney.

Judge Lerner issued a bench warrant for Mr. Conkling's arrest in 1984 when he failed to show up in court to appeal a speeding ticket. Mr. Conkling, who never was arrested, said the warrant had nothing to do with his decision to run. But he circulated a report to newspapers that 55 percent of Judge Lerner's cases that were appealed and resulted in published opinions were reversed or remanded.

A 1995 report by the Administrative Office of the Courts, which tabulates results of published cases statewide, said roughly half of all cases published by the appellate courts result in reversals or remands of one form or another.

In the final days, Mr. Conkling ran his campaign largely through television advertising on the county's cable television station.

He said he intended to spend $20,000 to mail a flier in the days before the election to all 57,000 Republican voters in the county.

His only political appearance last week was at a Lincoln Day Republican dinner in Glen Burnie.

By contrast, the four judges -- who won 15-year terms -- ran together on a ticket that had the backing of both the state and county bar associations, a treasury of roughly $60,000 and dozens of volunteers who helped organize events and raise funds.

The judges appeared at public forums and dinners, ranging from meetings with Democratic clubs to services at black churches, a half-dozen times each week.

Their money paid for a cable television commercial, hand-size cards with the judges' credentials and newspaper ads, campaign officials said.

Judge Greene and Judge North, appointed to the $93,600-a-year positions last fall, were on the ballot because Maryland law requires a judge to run in the election that follows an appointment.

Judge Greene, 45, of Severna Park served as District Court judge for seven years and as administrative judge of the county District Court for five years, before he became the first African-American to serve on the Anne Arundel Circuit Court bench. He replaced Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr.

Judge North 44, of Annapolis served as an assistant public defender and was in private practice for five years before she became the first woman appointed to the Circuit Court bench. She replaced Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr.

Judge Lerner, 64, of Annapolis and Judge Wolff, 57, of Severna Park were appointed in 1979 and ran unopposed in 1980.

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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